The story is told that in 1870 one of the examiners at the U.S. patent office resigned his position because he felt that everything
had been invented and there was no future in his job. It is true that Morse's telegraph opened up a whole new world of
communications possibilities, but at that time the telephone, the radio, and television had not yet been invented, and when
Edison gave America the electric light, the phonograph, and the first inkling of the motion picture, the tremendous use of
electrical appliances to occur in the 20th century was still in the future, as were the automobil, the airplane, and the helicopter,
two world wars would later spur the chemical industry to the development of synthetics and so blaze an endless trail for still
another new path toward scientific marvels.
This last development would depend upon knowledge of electricity, mathematics, chemistry, and physics, so technical education
became of prime importance as America forged ahead into the 20th century. Under the Morris act, the United States government set
aside large track of land from the public domain. The act provided that this land be sold to finance the establishment of agricultural and
technical colleges. Each congressman was allotted 30,000 acres for this purpose and many colleges were built as a result.
Other colleges were established by various church denominations. Neverthless, in 1873, there were only 23,000 college students
in the entire United States, most of them concentrated on the east.
Through the effort of Horace Mann, a prominent educator,Massachusetts took the lead in establishing a school system that included
grammar schools and high schools and a Board of education to administer their activities. Elsewhere, private academies, established by
various churches, had taken the place of high schools, and it was in these academies that students prepared for college. Commercial
subjects were introduced after the advent of the typewriter, but there were few special subjects taught in any of the schools. Little provision
was made for the handicapped until the 20th century. There were not school, as those in England, for training teachers in specialized
subjects, although normal school for training teachers had been in existence since before the civil war.
Some people believe that inventions occur as the need arises, but this could be a wrong theory due to the fact that those inventors are
from territories very different from the Caribbean area. From this point of view, someone else might have invented the telephone.
As it happened, it was Alexander Graham Bell's work with the deaf that hastened this invention.
Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland, he spent his youth in England. His grandfather and father were elocution teachers.
While the family lived in England, the parents moved in scientific circles, where experiments were being carried out on the human voice.
Alexander and his brother became interested in the subject. They evolved a puppet with throat organs based on those of the human being.
There was great conternation when the tenants in the apartment house where the Bells lived heard the cry "mama." They thought a baby
was lost somewhere. It was only the Bell boys carrying out the experiment of reproducing the human voice.
Alexander worked the throat organs while his brother furnished the air by pumping a wind machine. They were curious about the
production of sound by means of musical instruments. Alexander became interested too, in experimenting with a multiple telegraph
that could send more than one message at a time. It was though his interest in this field that he stumbled on the telephone, years later.
After graduating from the University of London, Alexander was a teacher of the deaf. His father had become an authority on this and had
been urged to give lectures on the subject in America. These offers, together with the fact that Alexander was rather frail in health,
determined the family to leave England. They emigrated to Canada and settle in Ontario. Within a few months, Alexander accepted
a teaching position with the Boston School for the deaf and left for Massachusetts.
In the course of his efforts to perfect a multiple telegraph, Bell had invernted a little machine which he call the Phonautograph.
He had used it in teaching the deaf. It was a hollow cylinder with a membrane stretched across one end and a stylus attached to the
Membrane. When someone spoke into the cylinder, the membrane would vibrate and the stylus would trace a zigzag line on smoked
glass. The same sound made by the student would produce the same zigzag line. This little machine would give him a key to the
invention of the telephone.
Bell took on an assistant, Thomas A. Watson, who possesed electrical experience which Bell lacked. The two men had worked
on the multiple telegraph and brought it nearer to success, when Bell's idea for the telephone came to him. While trying to syncronize
the transmitters of the multiple telegraph, Bell discovered that something new in electricity had been brough about, he called this
new phenomenon an indulatory current. By means of it he could detect tones and overtones of a sound tranmitted by electricity.
The voice shaped electrical undulation sounded like a person who was speaking in the distance.
It did not take long for Watson to construct a wooden box on which was mounted one of Bell's receivers and a mouthpiece
arranged to direct the voice against the other end of the receiver. In 1876 when Bell showed his first model of the telephone, it
was still a crude instrument. This was the year of the Philadelphia Centennial, which celebrated the first hundred years of progress
in the United States. The exibit consisted of two hundred buildings. Mabel Hubbard, Bell's fiancee, insisted that he enter
his instrument for exhibit at the centennial. He protested that he was not ready, but she insisted and finally won out. It was
a late entry. The telephone receiver was set up in the educational exhibit, with the tranmitter connected to it from across the
Many distinguished Europeans and Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, were there. The Emperor had visited Boston several weeks
before and had been very much interested in the work Bell was doing with the deaf. The Emperor and Sir William Thompson,
an English scientist, were among the judges on the last day of the exhibition. Bell waited disconsolately for the judges to approach,
he feared that they would not even visit an educational exhibit, but the big blonde Emperor had seen Bell and rushed to greet him.
He took the inventor's arm and they walked over to see the little receiver, Bell then went to the transmitter on the other side of
the room and began to say, "To be or not to be". The Emperor stroked his blonde beard as the sound came through the receiver.
He looked amazed and then showed delight as Bell's voice went on. Finally, Don Pedro straightened up and looked about with
startled eyes, "It talks!" he cried. The other judges gathered around and took turns listening, while Don Pedro, with the tail of his
formal coat flapping, dashed across the room to Bell's position near the transmitter. Sir William called Bell's invention, the
greatest of all time.
Alexander Graham Bell received the centennial prize awards for both, the multiple telegraph and the telephone. Fame does not
usually come to a man by public acclaim. When it does come, it must be inspired by authority. In this memoirs Bell wrote:
"I went to bed, the night before, an unknown man, and awoke to find myself famous. I owe it to Sir
William Thomson, back of him to Don Pedro, and back of him to the deaf mutes of Boston..."